Some really good old books

There are some really good old books out there that it would be terrific if young clinicians could read. One of my favorites is Auditory Disorders in School Children, written by Helmer Myklebust and published in 1954 by Grune and Stratton. Myklebust, a psychologist, was a professor of Audiology and Otolaryngology at Northwestern University and Director of the Children’s Hearing and Aphasia Clinic. When Auditory Disorders in School Children was published, it was a milestone book and a manual for differential diagnosis of children with a variety of auditory disorders.


What auditory disorders?

The first topic was Auditory Disorders due to Peripheral Hearing Loss. This is what we would describe as hearing loss today. His second topic was Auditory Disorders due to Aphasia, which is what he  called children with brain injury. Very possibly some of these kids had auditory processing disorders  or severe language disorders and others had what we now know as auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder. The next category was Auditory Disorders due to Psychic Disorder, which would include autism spectrum disorders by our current definitions. The final category concerns Auditory Disorder due to Mental Deficiency, which is now referred to as Developmental Delay.


Is the information current?

Certainly the terminology is out of date as are some of the assumptions. When Myklebust wrote, he described the “refrigerator mother” as the cause of emotional disturbance, which we know now is definitely not true. Although, the terminology is out of date, Myklebust’s descriptions of the disorders are very helpful for learning to identify the different issues facing children and helping clinicians to recognize the different disorders.


“Too deaf to be deaf”

An example of Myklebust’s helpful diagnoses is his description of a child who was “too deaf to be deaf.” Anyone who has evaluated children on the autistic spectrum will recognize this child. Children who are typically deaf will likely hear some things and it is possible to get their attention if you make the sound loud enough, if it causes vibrations, or if you can attract the child using vision. There are some kids who do not respond even if the floor is rocking from loud sound. That is not typical of deafness. Those are kids who Myklebust would describe as “too deaf to be deaf.”


Look for the book

I have two copies of this book that I lend to people I am mentoring and whom I consider trustworthy – lending only one copy at a time for fear of losing it. It is out of date, but if you search you may find it and, for anyone working with children, this book will give you some insights into diagnosing what is wrong with those kids who show up in your clinic who are just a little atypical.  Used copies are available at Amazon. I wish you luck in finding it. Enjoy.

About Jane Madell

Jane Madell has a consulting practice in pediatric audiology. She is an audiologist, speech-language pathologist, and LSLS auditory verbal therapist, with a BA from Emerson College and an MA and PhD from the University of Wisconsin. Her 45+ years experience ranges from Deaf Nursery programs to positions at the League for the Hard of Hearing (Director), Long Island College Hospital, Downstate Medical Center, Beth Israel Medical Center/New York Eye and Ear Infirmary as director of the Hearing and Learning Center and Cochlear Implant Center. Jane has taught at the University of Tennessee, Columbia University, Downstate Medical School, and Albert Einstein Medical School, published 7 books, and written numerous books chapters and journal articles, and is a well known international lecturer.